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Archive for July, 2011

This is the concluding post in a series on the three monastic vows: Poverty, chastity and obedience. I suppose my goal, as much as I can have a goal in doing three short blogs, has been to call Christians to something higher. I think that at the same time as God shows us that our efforts are nothing and that grace is completely free (eg. Ephesians 2:8-9), He also calls us to perfection (Matthew 5:48). Bonhoeffer puts it like this when speaking of grace: “It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life”.

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Earlier this year I was waitering at an Indian restaurant. I really enjoyed the nature of the work, considering I have this strange attraction to hospitality. However, I rarely got over twenty hours a week, which was alright, yet difficult at times to save money on. One good thing was that there was a plethora of opportunities to catch up with friends and do lots of recreational study. Mum knew I was looking for more hours and let me know that a local supermarket was looking for staff so I put in an application, not thinking much of it. I never got a reply. Until, like three weeks later I think, they called me up saying that they needed a trolley boy. Ha. I remember totally giving no attention to how polite I was on the phone because I was so self-conscious about being payed to push trolleys. I turned up to the interview and half-assed it a bit because I really didn’t care whether I got the job or not. Turns out that I got the job, which, strangely enough, was not really what I was hoping for…

There are a couple of details from stories in the Old Testament that can be a bit perplexing. I’m talking about the lingering effects of sin after forgiveness. Moses, whom God used to lead Israel out of slavery in Egypt and establish the law, which includes the Ten Commandments, is an interesting illustration of this. The best bits probably make up most of the Book of Exodus. The story goes that the Israelites were a minority, a lesser-people in the land of Egypt without really their own national identity or a place called home. Through a series of miracles, God leads them out of Egypt, using Moses as a mediator, so that they may go into a land they can call home. They get that far: Getting out of the land. Yet, because of obedience and trust issues, the Israelites decide to go their own way, rejecting the Promised Land that God had prepared for them. Moses is one of their number (Actually, the texts are a little ambiguous as to why exactly Moses can’t enter the Promised Land. Compare Num 20:1-13; Deu 32:51-52, 1:34-37). The seriousness of Moses’ restricted entry to the Promised Land is illustrated when he asks God about it later on and gets a sterner reply: No, definitely not (Deu 3:23-26). What’s interesting about this story is that Moses maintains close relationship with God. Even though he has caused a stir and God has forgiven him, even though God continues to use him to lead Israel, it doesn’t change the situation he finds himself in: He will never enter the Promised Land.

I read a book with the most unappealing cover art ever. Sometime late last year I had nabbed a book from an old flatmate following the stories of two YWAM missionaries. It was one of those grow-your-own publishing jobs with that embarrassingly-Christian look about it. I think that’s why God wanted me to read it. And it’s cliche, but it turns out I couldn’t get enough of it. There was just so much adventure. The entire read more fully inspired me to be obedient to God’s calling in every part of my life. Later on in the story, one of the missionaries discussed with his wife two paths that God had laid before him. One was a path that would take some work, produce fruit and allow him to live pretty a good life with the family. The second path was one full of danger. There would be a lot of sacrifices, in a both a big sense and a daily sense. The calling and lifestyle would cost the family a lot (not monetarily, I mean). However, the fruit, the change for the good, would be amazing.

As I have been pushing trolleys, I’ve managed to move onto checkouts and now I’ve got shifts in the butchery. I’ve learnt a lot of new things — both practical things that relate literally to the job, and spiritual lessons through the experiences. I know there have been other things that I’ve previously put into the too-hard basket and ignored, missing opportunities, perhaps even permanently. Despite my disobedience, God has managed (No way!) to use me whatever situation I find myself. Hopefully, as we grow spiritually mature, we learn the importance of taking time to listen to the Spirit and not just listening, but responding.

‘As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”’ — Luke 11:27-28

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Image taken from http://biblescripture.net/Canaan.jpeg. Thank you!

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This is the second post in a three part introductory series on monastic vows. Probably one of the most distinguishing features of a monastic (monk/nun) to the modern eye is singleness/celibacy: What’s going on?

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Probably the best thing about living in Christchurch is Eastercamp. It’s a huge (relative to Christchurch) Christian youth camp that runs the duration of Easter and is filled with every kind of both aesthetic and spiritual goodness. I have this acute memory from the first camp I attended as a leader. In an attempt to maintain piety while away from home I was reading through Matthew. I came to the part where the Jesus and the disciples are talking about divorce: ‘The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it”‘ (19:10-12, NIV).

I remember feeling like poos after reading this. Having prized the prospect of marriage in life so highly, to think that I could be one that God called to accept celibacy was beyond what I could bear at the time. In a very good way, however, this experience helped me to give more of myself in realizing that there was still a lot of my life I was holding back from Him.

Fast forward a couple of years later: The question of celibacy is found to be still flailing tempestuously inside as I attempt to give myself completely over to God again. That question, “Do you require me to live a single life for you?” Maybe the answer goes something like this, “I require you to be willing”. Talking this over with one of the pastors at my church, I got the impression that I wasn’t going to know yet. In fact, there’s also the possibility of celibacy for a season, rather than a lifetime. It’s like in Star Wars Episode I when Qui Gon Jinn takes Anakin to the council of the Jedis so they can see if he’ll be a Jedi or not. There are pulls within Anakin’s spirit, leading him in two different directions and Yoda can’t make what will happen of it: “Clouded, this boy’s future is”.

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At a recent youth group boy’s night (you know where this is going), we talked about the perils of unbridled sexual desire (because ‘unbridled’ goes so well with those words!). I don’t want to generalise, but it’s generally safe to say that when there’s a men’s event with a church group, pornography, lust and general sexual deviance is going to be a hot topic. Everyone tip-toes around it to start, but when some brave soul flings the poo at the fan, it’s everywhere.

A high point of this night though, was looking at the non-physical side of sex. You see, you don’t need to burn with lust while looking at a woman to objectify her. You don’t need to manipulate someone to fulfill your sexual desires to use them. Before I explain, there are two things I must say: Firstly, I don’t want to underplay the importance of discussing issues around lust by emphasising the ‘nicer’ side of sexuality. Secondly, I really hope you don’t get the impression that sexual desire and sex in itself are condemned by Christianity. Rather, they are things to be celebrated, but that’s a-whole-nother conversation.

Reflecting on this year so far, I’ve seen how awesome it’s been for my female friendships. I feel I’ve gotten to know more closely some of my friends ‘from the other side’ and been a lot more comfortable meeting and making new ones. One truly beautiful thing about being single is having the opportunity to hang out with a lot of girls. Wait. No, I’ve really enjoyed it, learnt a lot, and deepened some important friendships. But I’ve continually got to ask myself, “What needs am I seeking to be met through developing my female friendships?” And this isn’t a gender-biased question either because I’ve used a lot of male friends in the past to meet emotional needs. The point is that I’ve found it really easy to use girls to feel good about myself in the same way I could objectify someone sexually. Sounds intense? Sorry for ruining the fun. I’d love to hear some opinions.

But Camo, there must be an alternative? What I’ve been attempting to attempt to work harder at is considering other people’s needs in a friendship or hang out: What are they there for? How can we bring mutuality to the friendship? Even, how can we bring God to the center of this? Will any hurt arise out of this friendship if it continues or ceases for various reasons? At what point is transparency important to set boundaries, yet at what point does it limit a friendship going further? The alternative then, may very well be to take the focus off from myself and bring it onto God and others.

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Anakin from http://images.wikia.com/swfanon/images/4/46/LittleAnakinASWS.jpg

Pepe from http://www.blast-o-rama.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/pepe.jpg

Thank you!

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Hey friends, this is post #1. As I sometimes had some thoughts to share on Facebook, I thought a blog might be more appropriate. I’m hoping this will continue then!

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The title, which you may recognize, is the three vows monastics (think monks and nuns) take when they enter into the religious life. To some extent all of them have had an effect on my life. In sum — and by this I mean to do injustice to the definitions of the vows by defining them each in a couple of words — you take up to vows to say you’ll live on what you need or less, as a single man/woman, seeking to follow the direction of those above you (in your monastic order).

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In a recent effort to curb the amount of possessions I own, I’ve met with idealism, failure, self-disillusionment, and success, sometimes in a very short space of time within that of each other. Firstly, if you want me to justify myself, I dreamt of the awesomeness of owning very little: You could move around so much. Imagine owning just a pillow, sleeping bag and mat, a couple or few sets of clothes, journal, pencil and a bible, possibly soap included? You could go pretty much anywhere, serving the church or for the sake of the gospel, whatever, and rely on God to feed you and look after you. Pretty keen to fight off wild beasts in Ephesus sometime too! One of the primary reasons for diminishing my stock is itinerancy: You are not bound to a place by the weight of that which you own. What else? Some of you will know how long you and I spend on Facebook. That’s all good, but I wonder how much more time we’d spend in prayer, study, preaching (?), social justice (?) if without a computer. Not that Facebook is evil, but its overavailability can be damaging sometimes, among other things. This question is probably better considered by practicing monastics, but here’s something I don’t think they had to deal with too much back in the day: Immaterial/semi-immaterial possessions. Facebook, bank account, email address, passport, etc. Practically, these ‘items’ don’t take up a lot of space so they might not limit one’s mobility as much as a bookshelf.

One thing I’m still mediating though, is the tension of settling in the land and being ready to move out at any moment. I’m sure many have felt the call to settle down as part of a community and contribute in some way long term. I’ve been slowly collecting important kitchenware to maximize future cooking opportunities, herbs and spices included. My arts and crafts collection is increasingly substantial. My library grows monthly in variety and depth. Some real men collect tools for their toolboxes too, etc. Ha. The difficulty is, at this time in life, making decisions regarding storing and saving or embracing bare essentials when you don’t know what the future holds. People have referred to the early church sharing everything they owned (cf. Acts 2.44-45) and then others have pointed out that it’s an ideal rather than a workable reality for modern times, or whatever. I like the former. What about even working towards it? What about rupturing the idea of individual ownership by freely allowing people to make good, unconditional use of your items? As Barnabas, a writer in the early church, said, “Give your neighbour a share of all you have and do not call anything your own. If you and he participate together in things immortal, how much more so in things that are mortal?”

Another difficulty I have found in loosing the grip of that which I own is that I haven’t managed to be quite as consistent in working with fleeting possessions. In a moment of passion I can give away a trinket, sell a piece of furniture or consecrate and destroy a relic from my pre-Christian life. The effort required to regain the likes of these is withstandable. However, the effort required to pass by some expensive takeaways or a nice night out is a lot more unpredictable. Once a more permanent item has been rid of then that’s it. But the opportunities to splash out on expensive meals and social times are myriad and my dealing with them is often inconsistent. If I one day own less than twenty five items then I can only call myself a fake if my social and eating habits don’t match the humble non-extravagance of my non-perishables.

Where to now? The purpose of this is not so much to warn everyone in their sinfulness in hoarding possessions and expensive living (although, consider Luke 12:13-21), because the very danger of a monastic vow is that it is seen as a requirement for salvation. Rather, I hope you can see some of the ways that this could play out in your lifestyle, as well as some further questions, and some of the benefits for the Kingdom of God that come with that. Be blessed!

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Image from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/22/The_Great_Traveller_Charles_Alexandre_Lesueur_in_the_Forest_by_Karl_Bodmer_1832_-_1834.jpg

Thank you!

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